It's a long article but I highly recommend it. Included is a very moving open letter to Bush written by an ordinary Iraqi.
"The great motorcade," wrote Canadian correspondent Don Murray, "swept through the streets of the city… The crowds … but there were no crowds. George W. Bush's imperial procession through Europe took place in a hermetically sealed environment. In Brussels it was, at times, eerie. The procession containing the great, armour-plated limousine (flown in from Washington) rolled through streets denuded of human beings except for riot police. Whole areas of the Belgian capital were sealed off before the American president passed."
Murray doesn't mention the 19 American escort vehicles in that procession with the President's car (known to insiders as "the beast"), or the 200 secret service agents, or the 15 sniffer dogs, or the Blackhawk helicopter, or the 5 cooks, or the 50 White House aides, all of which added up to only part of the President's vast traveling entourage. Nor does he mention the huge press contingent tailing along inside the president's security "bubble," many of them evidently with their passports not in their own possession but in the hands of White House officials, or the more than 10,000 policemen and the various frogmen the Germans mustered for the President's brief visit to the depopulated German town of Mainz to shake hands with Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder.
for Bush & Co., all life is lived inside a bubble carefully wiped clean of any traces of recalcitrant, unpredictable, roiling humanity, of anything that might throw their dream world into question. On the electoral campaign trail in 2004, George probably never attended an event in which his audience wasn't carefully vetted for, and often quite literally pledged to, eternal friendliness, not to say utter adoration. (Anyone who somehow managed to slip by with, say, a Kerry T-shirt on, was summarily ejected or even arrested.)
In a sense, our President's world has increasingly been filled with nothing but James Guckert clones. Guckert is, of course, the "journalist" who, using the alias Jeff Gannon, regularly attended presidential news conferences and lobbed softball questions George's way. The Gannon case, or "Gannongate," has -- are you surprised? -- hardly been touched on by most of the mainstream media despite its lurid trail leading to internet porn sites and a seamy underside of gay culture -- issues that normally would glue eyes to TV sets and sell gazillions of papers (and that in the Clinton era would have rocked the administration). On the other hand, it did cause an uproar in the world of the political Internet, where, if we were to be honest -- and stop claiming to be shocked, shocked -- we would quickly admit that almost all of George's world has essentially filled up with Gannons (though not necessarily with the porn connections).
After all, even the President's Crawford "ranch" is really a Gannon-style set. And in Germany and France, George and Condi, his new Secretary of State, managed to have town-hall style meetings only with audiences of European Gannons; audiences so carefully combed over that, on a continent whose public is largely in opposition to almost any Bush policy you might mention, not a single challenging question seems to have been asked. That certainly represents remarkable advanced planning. It's no easy thing, after all, constantly to rush ahead of a President and his key advisors and create a Potemkin world for them from which reality has been banished and in which no rough edges will ever be experienced.
Monday, February 28, 2005
The President in a bubble
Tom Engelhardt has written an amazing article entitled "Potemkin World… or the President in the Zone" that is published in TomDispatch. What he describes is downright creepy: